Joss Stone Interview: Soul Icon Returns with "Never Forget My Love"
Image attributed to Kristin Burns
English singer, songwriter and actress Joss Stone rose to fame in late 2003 with her multi-platinum debut album, The Soul Sessions. In 2004, Mind Body & Soul topped the UK Albums Chart with the top-ten single “You Had Me." Her third record, Introducing Joss Stone, released in 2007, achieved gold status and yielded the second-ever highest debut for a British female solo artist on the Billboard 100.
Throughout her career, Stone has sold 15 million records worldwide, establishing herself as one of the bestselling British artists of all time. In 2006, she made her film acting debut in the fantasy adventure film Eragon, portrayed Anne of Cleves in Showtime’s The Tudors and also appeared on the musical drama TV series Empire.
"When I think of how my past boyfriends think of me, I don’t want them to have a bad feeling. I want them to think of the love because it was real."
In 2021, Stone reunited with the legendary Dave Stewart (Eurythmics), who produced and co-wrote her latest record, Never Forget My Love. The 8th studio album is now available via Stewart’s label, Bay Street Records. On January 29, 2021, she gave birth to a daughter, Violet Melissa DaLuz. Stone kicked off a tour on January 22, 2022, with Corinne Bailey Rae, but she had to drop out after testing positive for COVID-19.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: Joss, how are you today?
Joss Stone: Really well. I think my baby’s smiling and happy today, so that’s good. How about you?
Smashing Interviews Magazine: I’m doing well, thanks.
Joss Stone: Perfect. Where are you from?
Smashing Interviews Magazine: I’m in Birmingham, Alabama.
Joss Stone: Oh, wow! Your accent is awesome! Love it!
Smashing Interviews Magazine: So is yours, and I love your daughter’s name, Violet Melissa!
Joss Stone: I know! I love that name. That’s my auntie’s name and one of my favorite singers, Melissa Etheridge, so you are in good company.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: Yes, indeed. Are you completely recovered from COVID?
Joss Stone: Not really. You know, I don’t have COVID anymore, so that’s good. We tested the other day. But I still feel like absolute shit (laughs). M cough is still there. I was told it lasts about three weeks afterwards, so I’m trying to be patient. But I want my voice to come back now.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: So the virus affected your singing voice?
Joss Stone: Oh, yes. That’s how I knew I had it. I was on stage in Savannah, Georgia, and my voice just completely refused to work. I’ve never had that before. I was so confused. I was going to the side of the stage and saying to Chris, my sound engineer, “I don’t know what to do. It’s just gone.” I had to tell the audience, “I’m so sorry. My voice is just not doing it.” I was so embarrassed, you know. Oh, it was the worst. The worst. Oh well, shit happens. We move on. I have to reschedule that gig and go back and redeem myself (laughs).
Smashing Interviews Magazine: Since you couldn’t resume the tour, what have you been doing at home?
Joss Stone: I’ve just been home cuddling my baby and watching British Bake Off. I’m obsessed with that show. It’s a baking competition, and I think I’ve watched every episode now.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: The new album is wonderful. Wow, it’s been over five years since Water for Your Soul was released.
Joss Stone: Has it? Oh, gosh. It’s such a long time, isn’t it? It didn’t feel like that, I think, because I was so busy that I didn’t really notice it. But, yeah, it’s been a while. I’m really glad that I had time to do it.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: Before you got together with Dave Stewart, what kind of sounds and songs were you thinking about for Never Forget My Love?
Joss Stone: I had this experience with Burt Bacharach. He had come to the United Kingdom to play some shows, and he asked if I would sing some songs for him. I guess there were about seven or eight. I’m in awe of him because I’ve been listening to his music since I was a kid. There are some really special ones that I have been influenced by without even knowing it was Burt, to be honest. But then later on, I learned who created those songs.
Then when I was asked to sing with him, I felt very nervous. So I wanted to really, really do a good job. I practiced them and practiced them, and whilst I was practicing them, I realized how beautifully they were put together and how deliberate they are and well composed and just classy, you know. So I don’t know. From that moment, I thought, “I want to make a record like that.” I was talking to Dave Stewart about that. I was just telling him what I’m telling you now. I said, “I love Burt’s style, and I don’t know where to begin with that. I’ve been trying to write songs like that, but I don’t know how to achieve it.” Dave said, “I know how. Let’s do it.” And he picked up his guitar and started to play something. I was like, “Oh, my God. Okay. Are we doing this?” He said, “Yeah. Let’s write the album right now. We can do it.”
So we started writing, and we came up with amazing ideas. And I was like, “I think this is it.” Then we went into the studio, and it all just came together. When the strings came on, that is when I knew we had achieved the goal. I just feel really weirdly proud of it more than normal. I was proud of it in a weird way because I felt like I couldn’t do it. Now, I’m just like, “Oh, my God. I made a really adult record.” (laughs) Without Dave, I couldn’t have done it. I just tried, and I couldn’t. He’s great.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: Is the title track, “Never Forget My Love,” based on a true story?
Joss Stone: You know what? I suppose when I do sing it, I think sometimes of individual moments. But really I was thinking about unfortunately, I’m one of those people that didn’t find the love of my life when I was in high school. I had to kiss a few frogs, shall we say, before I found my prince. I have had moments in those relationships that passed that have been lovely. That’s why you get in the relationships. But in the end, you end up hating each other, making each other cry, making each other feel like shit and just disrespecting each other. That is how a relationship ends. In order for them to end in a clean way, it’s probably best you don’t talk anymore. That can be really sad, and you can end up grieving that person as though they died, and they haven’t. They’ve only died to you. It’s sad. In order to get over that grieving, we just think of the bad stuff because the second you think of the good stuff, you’re going to grieve again. So you just keep that bad stuff in the front of your mind, and that’s how you walk on. I think that’s a terrible shame.
When I think of how my past boyfriends think of me, I don’t want them to have a bad feeling. I want them to think of the love because it was real. It’s just so sad to hold that up there. So that’s what I’m really trying to say. Like, I know we shouldn’t have broken up, and we shouldn’t have been together, but think of me because I think of you. It is what it is, and that’s just the truth. It’s not the truth that my partner now likes to hear, but it is what it is. It’s the truth. We must try and think of the good.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: Many of us find our true loves later in life. It happens more than you think, so there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.
Joss Stone: Oh, really? Oh, that’s good. So we’re not alone. I don’t think we’re alone. When I got to 30, and I definitely wasn’t with the right guy then, I started to think, “Oh, God. Am I ever going to find the right one?” You start to lose hope a bit. Then one day, they just turn up, and it’s so beautiful.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: Absolutely. What’s your favorite song on the new album?
Joss Stone: My favorite one, I think, is “Love You Till the Very End.” That one just gives me goosebumps when I hear it. I just feel like crying every time I hear it. It’s a similar concept as “Never Forget My Love,” but it’s a very specific one because I’m just a deep, deep feeler, and I don’t let things go easy (laughs). So yeah. “Love You Till the Very End.” That one was heavy for me, but I love it. I’m glad how it turned out.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: Yes. Very beautiful and emotional. Joss, when did your parents realize that there was something special about your voice?
Joss Stone: I remember that friends of my parents asked me to sing at their wedding when I was 11 years old. I would sing just around the house really. My sister and I would put on little shows or plays. My sister was a good singer, and she’s really an amazing actress. She’s never been a professional actress, but she’s done amateur plays in the village. She’s brilliant. She has the confidence and is a very funny, larger-than-life type of person. I was very quiet (laughs). So I never realized I had any confidence. I was singing in the kitchen and stuff. Then my mom’s friends heard me singing around the house, and they asked me to sing at their wedding. I was like, “I can’t do that! I’m a kid. I don’t know what I’m doing.” My mum was like, “Oh, go on, love. It’s just one song.” I thought, “Oh, my goodness. I can’t say ‘no.’” In my mind, I was like, “You’ve got to do it.”
So I remember that I stood up in a room with about 250 people that I didn’t know, and I was shaking. I was so nervous. I was just looking at them all, and they were staring at me waiting. There was silence. I just thought, “I can’t do this.” I said to them, “Can you not look at me, please?” Then you heard every single person in the room move their chairs. They all turned around and turned their heads down. Even the loud drunk in the room did it. He was so sweet. He went silent, you know. Everyone just turned away. Then I sang “Amazing Grace” a cappella. I sang a little bit of “This Little Light of Mine,” but I couldn’t get through it, so I just sat down. The father of the bride went to my mother, and he said, “Never ever ever get that girl singing lessons. You get her breathing lessons, and that is it. Singing lessons will change her voice. She has something very special.” My mum was like, “Oh, okay. I never really thought about it.”
Then I went to school and told mum that there’s a singing teacher and that she’s going to do lessons at the school. I went to a free school, so it wasn’t like private where we could pay for stuff like that. It was like you get what you’re given. So this was a new thing. I said, “I want singing lessons.” I begged mum (laughs). She finally said, “Okay.”
When I came home, she said, “Tell me, what did she do to you today?” I said, “She told me to stand up against the wall and try to get the warble out of my voice and make it straight.” She was like, “You’re never going again ever. It’s done. You’re a beautiful singer.” From that point, she just supported me. My dad thought it was really silly, but my mum was like, “No. She’s going to be something.”
Smashing Interviews Magazine: Your mother was right on the mark.
Joss Stone: She was right on. It was very funny. I remember that my dad, once he realized I could sing, used to try and make me sing at barbecues and stuff where all my friends were. I was so embarrassed. I didn’t want to do it. But now I do it all the time (laughs).
Smashing Interviews Magazine: You were young, quiet and nervous, then quickly rose to fame with the debut of your first album, The Soul Sessions, at only 16 years old. That had to have been nerve-wracking for you.
Joss Stone: It was very nerve-wracking, yeah.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: How did you stay focused and balanced?
Joss Stone: I think my mum and dad are such good people, you know. They have a really good way of bringing me back down to earth not that I ever went up in the sky. Maybe it’s an English thing, but my family doesn’t celebrate too much. So it’s almost like if something’s doing really well, “That’s nice,” and then we move on. It’s not like, “Oh, my God! You’re amazing! It’s so fantastic!” We don’t do that. That’s just not a thing that happens in my family. So sometimes you don’t know if they’re happy or sad. But that’s just how they are.
So I think that might’ve kept me from getting a big head or something. I don’t know. But definitely, I just do my best, and often, I think I’ve done a terrible job. Sometimes, I’m wrong. Sometimes, I’ve done okay. It’s not too bad to be like that. I mean, it means that you don’t get a big head, and it also means you get better and better because you always think you’re not good enough (laughs). So you hone it and focus and just try to be good.
I just want people to have a good feeling for me. When I hear singers who are way out of tune and are not really connecting, I don’t get a good feeling. When I listen to music, I want to feel covered in love and goodness. I don’t want to feel uncomfortable. When a note comes out that isn’t correct, it gives an uncomfortable feeling. So I never want to be the reason why that happens.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: That’s a lot of pressure, though, to put on yourself.
Joss Stone: I know. I know. Do you know what Becky Wright said to me? She said, “Honey, it takes a lot of pressure to make the diamond.” (laughs) I said, “Okay. I’ll deal with it then.”
Smashing Interviews Magazine: You have been compared to Adele and Amy Winehouse, and that’s a great compliment. But do you ever think that comparisons to other artists maybe lessens your own standing as an artist?
Joss Stone: I know what you mean. I think it’s a good question because it’s natural to imagine if you were compared to somebody you don’t think is any good. That would be really worrying (laughs). But luckily, the people they compare me to, I actually think are really great. I take that as very lucky. Thank God they still think that I’m worth mentioning in the same sentence as Amy Winehouse or Adele because that makes me feel like it’s a good thing. But in the same kind of vein, we are not the same people. So of course, we’re going to have different thoughts and ideas and different ways of approaching a song. So I think it’s just a way of being able to discuss music. As long as the standards of comparison are good, I think I can always take it as a compliment.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: My favorite duet is you and Melissa Etheridge performing a Janis Joplin tribute at the 2005 Grammy Award ceremony.
Joss Stone: Oh, yes. That was amazing!
Smashing Interviews Magazine: Is there someone out there you really want to do a duet with that you haven’t had a chance to yet?
Joss Stone: I’d love to sing with Adele as far as female singers go. That would be great. I’ve never sung with her. I love singing with anyone (laughs). I’ve got a fetish with collaboration. So I’m a fan of that. You know who else I like? The singer Rag’n’Bone Man and also the guy who wears the hat that covers his ears, Gregory Porter. There are so many artists and so many different styles.
I did this thing where I played a gig in every country in the world, and when I did that, I collaborated with an artist from every country in the world. Those moments where I got to sit down with somebody I did not understand, as far as language is concerned, was one of my most favorite parts of my life. We literally played totally different music, yet we were still able to create something together that was lovely and beautiful and kind of flowed. I was able to be part of their music. Their collaborating with me was way more interesting and way more exciting than collaborating with someone within my style.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: That’s very cool. How do you feel about artists pulling their music from Spotify because Joe Rogan has allegedly been spreading false information on his podcast?
Joss Stone: You know what? I don’t get it. I don’t get it (laughs). I have listened to so many of his podcasts, and I think he’s a really nice bloke. I mean, he’s a comedian, so he’s going to say things that are off color. That’s his job. But honestly, I just don’t get it. I also do not get why any musician would want to remove their music from their listeners’ ears. Why? Why would you want to do that just to crush somebody else? I think it’s very dark and not very positive. So I’m not joining in with that at all.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: What do you think about cancel culture?
Joss Stone: I think it’s a terrible thing. My partner, Cody, was talking about cancel culture. I said to him, “Don’t worry, honey. You can’t cancel things. You can’t blackball things. It’s impossible. You can’t do it.” He says, “No. No. You can. People are doing it.” I said, “No. When something is good, and something is quality, and people want that thing, you can’t get rid of it.” You can’t, you know. Good luck with that. It’s not going to happen. Also, I’m not American. I have American tendencies. That’s for sure, and I love this country. I don’t vote here. I don’t have citizenship. But I do live here, and I thought that you guys had freedom of speech. You do have that, right?
Smashing Interviews Magazine: Well, the First Amendment protects freedom of speech. But that only prevents Congress from restricting the press or the rights of individuals to speak freely. That doesn’t apply to private companies or even to social media.
Joss Stone: Oh, yeah. How about that? You know what? I think people are just having opinions, and that’s okay. Everyone just needs to calm down. I don’t know about you, Melissa, but I think everybody needs to calm down. And I would never take any music from people just because I’m in a bad mood about something. That’s terrible.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: Would you like to do more acting, Joss?
Joss Stone: I would love to do more. I think it’s such a fun thing to do because really, truly, it is play pretend. As young children, we’ve all run around saying, “I’m a deer. I’m a fox.” Really, it goes back to my childhood a little bit just pretending to be a queen. Obviously, you take it slightly more seriously because you want to do a good job and you want to help people get into the story. But I just think it’s a fun thing to do.
Obviously, it’s pressure because I don’t know what I’m doing. I’m learning, and I’m not an amazing actress. I’ve just tried a few things. But the pressure is different than what I normally deal with because I am the front person in my band, and if I put out an album, it’s my album. It’s my words. It’s very much like this is my work. When I’m acting, I’m almost like the bass player. I’m kind of helping that person get their story out, and I like to be part of the band. It’s a nice feeling to be part of that and to do a good job for the director and the writer. I like that.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: Speaking of a “queen,” do you know the Queen?
Joss Stone: I’ve met her once (laughs). I think she’s wonderful, a perfect representation of the perfect Englishwoman. I have performed for the royal family on numerous different occasions because they do a lot of charity work. So when they have their fundraising events, they look to have an artist to come and play. I’m one of those artists. But that’s how I know them. So whenever they do something, and they need my help, I’m in. I think they always do wonderful work. I’m very proud of the royal family.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: Do you watch The Crown?
Joss Stone: Oh, yes. I love The Crown! It’s so good, isn’t it? I think it’s somewhat made up, but it has a lot of truth in it.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: What’s the most important life lesson that you and her dad teach Violet Melissa?
Joss Stone: We always talk about how we want to bring her up and what environment I want her to grow up in like a wholesome environment. But really both of us are on the same page as far as she can do what she wants to do, but she has a choice. I think that’s very important for anyone walking this earth to know that you don’t have to do anything. My dad instilled that belief in me, and it helped me make brave decisions and to feel like I’m the conductor of my own destiny. It’s a real freedom. I feel very free. I don’t feel under any constraints. To know there are consequences to actions is very important. You can make a bad choice, but it’s certainly yours to make. So I hope she grows up and feels that way, that she can do whatever she wants and be happy.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: What’s next, Joss?
Joss Stone: Well, I’ve got to reschedule my shows that got cancelled because of the virus. I guess people can look out on my socials to find out when that’s happening. I hope to make some more music this year. I don’t know what it will be, but I’ll keep cooking, keep cuddling my baby and put a record out and hope that people like it (laughs).
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